Taking cancer by the horns a la Dr. Nori

Renowned oncologist lists five measures focused on prevention and early detection to save lives

Renowned oncologist lists five measures focused on prevention and early detection to save lives

Trying to treat all cancer cases by increasing the number of hospitals would be a difficult task given the incidence of the disease in India. On the contrary, technological advances in cancer treatment and the large sums of money spent on the establishment of hospitals should be partly used for preventive measures and early detection, which can go a long way in saving lives.

This suggestion for policy change came from Nori Dattatreyudu who has over 50 years of experience in oncology. A Padma Shri recipient, Dr Nori cites data collected from the national health portal, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), to explain the immediate need for action.

He said 440 million women in India aged 15 or above are potential risk cases for developing cervical cancer, which is preventable. Around 200 women die of cervical cancer every day. In addition, a significant number of cancer deaths in the country each year are due to tobacco use.

“Constant monitoring helps detect cervical cancer early, saving women. It is curable in the early stages,” said the renowned oncologist.

In a free conversation with The Hinduthe chief medical officer, who was in Hyderabad, discussed five measures focusing on prevention and early detection, not treatment.

“We’re not talking about multi-million dollar investments; we are readjusting,” he said.

One of the measures is to make cancer a notifiable disease. “All cancer cases must be registered with the central government. It helps to know the correct data. When you have the data, you can identify the pockets where the cancer is high and put your resources there,” he explained.

The second is to integrate cancer screening tests into government health programs such as Aarogyasri. With this, the cost will not be an obstacle to get screened. Hospitals would also be encouraged to get incentives, he said.

The third measure is to create a separate department for cancer which should be headed by a principal secretary. All aspects of cancer, from awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, would be closely monitored.

Mobile screening vans in all villages were suggested as a fourth measure. Although this is already being implemented by governments, NGOs and others, coordination by a department is needed, Dr Nori said.

“Everyone must be registered with the state and inform about the places it covers. It helps to utilize available resources,” he added.

He emphasized a massive campaign against smoking as the fifth measure. Pamphlets containing information on the dangers of chewing or smoking tobacco, cancer symptoms and other details should be printed in the local language. The material must be provided in all health facilities. Awareness campaigns should be organized at school level.

Dr. Nori proposed these and other measures to the Center last year. He also urged state governments to implement them.

In addition, he advises the introduction of a toll-free number to provide information on cancer diagnosis and treatment, the establishment of pediatric cancer hospitals and palliative care centers.

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